Power Shutoff Rules Finalized for Upcoming Wildfire Season

The Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) recently approved permanent rules for investor-owned electric utilities, including Portland General Electric, PacifiCorp, and Idaho Power, regarding public safety power shutoffs (PSPSs). Temporary rules were implemented for the 2021 wildfire season while the PUC, utilities, public safety partners, and communities worked to finalize permanent rules. This is a timely decision as May is National Wildfire Awareness Month and wildfire season quickly approaches. 

A PSPS is an important safety measure designed to help protect people and communities in high fire-risk areas by proactively shutting off electricity during extreme and dangerous weather conditions. De-energizing power lines through a PSPS is a wildfire risk mitigation strategy of last resort because of the significant impacts the loss of power can have on communities and the extensive planning and communication that are needed to effectively implement them. These new rules lay out specific communication requirements for the utilities to inform public safety partners, state agencies, local jurisdictions, and the public of the need to implement a PSPS to mitigate wildfire risk, as well as updates at least every 24 hours until service is restored. 

“Extreme fire weather can clearly happen throughout Oregon,” said Letha Tawney, PUC Commissioner. “Implementing a PSPS is a complex decision that impacts communities including use of home medical devices, access to 911 services, and the ability to pump water. However, it’s a tool in the utility’s tool kit to help reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, if they determine necessary.”

How to Prepare for a Potential Power Outage

  • Be two weeks ready – Gather food, medical supplies, batteries, pet supplies, among other things, needed by family members during an outage or evacuation for up to two weeks.
  • For individuals with a medical condition that requires power, please contact your service provider in advance of an outage to register a Medical Certificate. This certification provides added benefits and helps the utility ensure they meet your needs in the event of an outage. Also, consider a backup generator or alternative location for power needs.
  • Keep cell phones fully charged in anticipation of an outage. Consider a car-charger for cell phones and other electronic devices.
  • Make sure your utility service provider has current contact information for notifications by updating your account online.

What to do During a Power Outage

  • Contact your electric utility service provider to inform them of an outage.
  • Avoid downed power lines at all costs.
  • Stay clear of utility crews working to restore service in your community.
  • Use flashlights or battery operated lanterns for emergency lighting. Do not use candles or other potential fire hazards.
  • Turn off lights and unplug electric appliances except for the refrigerator and freezer to help avoid a surge to the system when service is restored. After turning off all the lights, turn one light on to know when power has been restored.
  • Use generators safely – Do not run the generator inside the home or garage or anywhere near a window or vent, as these spaces can capture deadly levels of carbon monoxide.
  • Check on elderly neighbors or community members with special needs who might need additional assistance.

Courtesy of OPUC

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